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League Bulletin

March 9, 2018

Legislators dug deeper on Thursday into how they might propose changes to the state’s tier system, which measures levels of economic distress. After hearing from non-partisan legislative staff, Joint Legislative Economic Development and Global Engagement Oversight Committee (EDGE) committee co-chair Rep. Susan Martin said that the committee would likely review and vote on a full proposal to revise the system when it meets next,​ in April. The EDGE Committee focused on how to measure a local government’s health: tax rate (current measure) or tax capacity (staff’s recommended measure)? According to staff, looking at a local government’s ability to raise money -- as opposed to the actual dollars it raises -- helps policymakers better understand an area’s capacity to help itself. Further, staff recommended using tax capacity when ranking local governments for economic development programs that require a local match as a condition of receiving a grant. In other programs, staff told legislators, it might be more appropriate to rank local governments using factors that measured individual residents’ economic distress, as opposed to the local government’s health. This discussion followed a broader one the committee held in January. The League's membership supports a revision of the tier system to focus the measurements more closely aligned to the causes of economic distress. Contact: Erin Wynia

Numerous legislative conversations in recent weeks focused on an intensifying construction industry workforce shortage. The lack of workers qualified to build and inspect road, building, and home construction projects affects both city governments and the private sector. Repeatedly over the past month, state legislators here have heard from government and industry officials that the labor shortage represents the biggest challenge facing the construction industry. Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina CEO Christopher Chung told legislators on Thursday that private industry CEOs named “a skilled workforce” as the second most important factor​ they consider when deciding where to expand their businesses. Chung attributed the high ranking of this factor to the tight labor market across the country now. Representatives of both the road construction and homebuilding industries have emphasized the same point in legislative presentations over the past few weeks. They have noted that local governments and businesses alike compete for skilled construction workers and building inspectors from the same shrinking labor pool. They have also pointed out that the shortage drives up construction costs and causes delays, because workers cannot be found in a timely way to fill open positions. Contact: Erin Wynia

Chairman J.D. Solomon of the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) on Thursday announced that a subset of EMC members will form a working group with members of the State Water Infrastructure Authority (SWIA) to examine the "environmental-infrastructure nexus." The goal is to include environmental regulatory requirements that EMC promulgates -- and utilities must follow -- in the examination and discussions SWIA is having on water and wastewater utilities' infrastructure needs. In 2017, SWIA released a report called "North Carolina's Statewide Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Master Plan: The Road to Viability" as the state's roadmap for viable water and wastewater utilities that safeguard public health, protect the environment, support vibrant communities, and encourage economic development. Solomon explained that the new “environmental-infrastructure nexus” workgroup hopes to produce a whitepaper by the end of the year.

State regulators in the ongoing Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC) rate case ​heard more advocacy this week for the League's positions, by way of expert testimony from electric rate consultant Brian Coughlan. Appearing at a state Utilities Commission hearing on behalf of the League, which intervened in the case to represent the interests of member cities and towns, Coughlan supported League positions and requests related to time-of-use and peak-use pricing options that can incentivize customers to conserve energy and reduce bills. The hearing will continue into next week, but the League's involvement has already resulted in a pending partial settlement with DEC (which services the western part of the state) on street-lighting issues. The settlement should pave the way for faster, more efficient conversion to LED technology, saving money for municipal taxpayers, making communities safer and leading to more efficient energy use. The lowering of existing rates for traditional street lighting will save cities and towns $2 million, savings that can go toward conversion costs. Equally important, key disincentives to LED conversion will be removed. Last week's League Bulletin detailed the partial settlement as well as the separate Duke Energy Progress (DEP) rate case, in which the League also intervened. Regulators in the DEP case ordered a much lower rate increase than the utility requested. 

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looks into the ailments of a particular community, it’s safe to assume the concern is infection or some similar local threat to human bodily health. So when the CDC started investigating the intense youth violence plaguing Wilmington, Del. -- a first-of-its-kind study -- it was different. But not inconsistent. Increasingly, communities and their governments are reframing their approaches to crime by considering it a treatable public health issue before one of criminal justice. We explore that with several voices from the conversation on this episode of Municipal Equation, the League's podcast about cities and towns in the face of change. A portion of this episode comes from a session of the National League of Cities' annual conference held late last year in Charlotte. (The League also covered the topic in the latest issue of Southern City.) Municipal Equation comes out every other week at​. Have an idea for an episode? Email producer Ben Brown.

Federal data on local broadband availability is distorted, overstated and inaccurate, ​the N.C. Broadband Infrastructure Office (NCBIO) repeated in discussions with legislators this week. Addressing legislators on Thursday, NCBIO Director Jeff Sural tied the distortions to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC's) reliance on reports from private internet service providers regarding their service levels in census blocks. Because the FCC allows providers to count the entire block as served even if only one parcel actually receives the service, the data indicates much wider broadband availability than actually exists, Sural said. He also told legislators that NCBIO often hears frustration from local officials regarding the lack of broadband service in their communities and their inability to change that situation. To determine the true level of broadband service across the state, Sural said that NCBIO is now asking residents and businesses to report their service levels and lack of access to its crowdsourced N.C. Broadband Map. This week’s discussion followed one last month in which legislators applauded NCBIO for its efforts to paint a truer picture of which areas have broadband. Contact: Erin Wynia

Cary is one of four U.S. cities announced as winners of the Smart Cities Council 2018 Readiness Challenge Grants. The Wake County town, whose smart-city work has been featured on the League's podcast, won support for its efforts to include the entire community in its data-tech and -efficency advancements, some of which have been in the areas of jobs and housing. Cary as a winner will access the Council's Readiness Workshop to continue developing several smart-city projects, including "One Cary," an initiative toward "a 360-degree view of the city by creating a single core platform to promote data sharing between departments and with citizens," a press release ​explains. The Smart Cities Council said Cary and fellow winners are all demonstrating coordination and collaboration between government and the community, with extra focus on underserved populations. "We’re so pleased to see the strides cities have made since we launched the Challenge last year," said Jennifer James, global director of the Smart Cities Council Readiness Program. "The entrants are knowledgeable and committed, and they have large ambitions. They are moving beyond the ‘pilot phase’ to deploy strategic at scale programs that will generate lasting benefits." The other winners are Birmingham, Ala.; Las Vegas; and Louisville, Ky. The Commonwealth of Virginia was also announced as a winner.​

Members of the N.C. Metropolitan​ Mayors Coalition (MMC) met with the League’s Board of Directors Executive Committee this week as the two groups explored re-establishing an affiliate agreement with the League. The meeting on Wednesday came at the request of MMC and as the League presented a formal proposal detailing the services that the group would receive upon establishing an affiliate relationship. League leaders see the potential move as a great opportunity to strengthen the voice of North Carolina cities and towns through the thought-leadership of large city mayors. “We have open arms to provide all the services you are receiving today, plus more services, with an extremely high level of staff professionalism at a greatly reduced cost, and see this as a means of keeping us all on the same sheet of music,” League President Michael Lazzara, the mayor pro tem of Jacksonville, said during the meeting. Lazzara said that he hoped MMC would accept the invitation, and that the dialogue continues on ways to work together. Every city whose mayor belongs to MMC is a member of the League, but the organization split as an affiliate in 2013. The meeting took place over lunch hosted by the League. 

Join Albemarle, Fuquay-Varina and so many other North Carolina municipalities utilizing the power of Here We Grow​ to tell the collective story of how our cities and towns are creating jobs, enhancing the economy and improving quality of life across the state. In Albemarle, it's the story of how a healthy showing of state- and local-government teamwork with the private sector led to a big business recruitment, jobs and the reuse of a long-vacant building. In Fuquay-Varina, it's a well-produced economic development video that takes a catchy, fun approach to pitching the town's growth advantage. "Recent success includes the town selecting a developer to create a transformational $40 million downtown mixed-use project; acquiring property to expand and relocate town hall to downtown in 2019; and purchasing 35 acres of industrial zone property to recruit new, advanced manufacturing firms," the town notes. These stories and so many more are found at
What could you contribute? What's your town doing to grow jobs, expand opportunities and improve life? Here We Grow is the place to tell that story. Municipalities across the state are doing it​ and showing how, taken together, it's impossible-to-ignore good work for North Carolina as a whole. Because when each of us does better, we all do better. New to Here We Grow? Don't have a login yet? Send an email to and we'll get you going.